10 Tips for Teaching English to EFL & ESL Students

Tips for teaching English

Today, English is the most popular language for people to learn around the world and this means that there are thousands of English teachers and tutors teaching English across the globe, with new teachers starting every week. Whether it is a good thing or not, any number of people can obtain the credentials to become an English teacher in some capacity and in certain cases being a native speaker alone is considered enough. It is therefore our responsibility as English teachers and English tutors to make sure that we are providing the best possible service to EFL and ESL students around the world regardless of our experience, so that they can get the level of teaching they deserve and to enable the English language to grow in a successful, effective way. So, if you already are an English teacher or tutor, or are thinking of becoming one and pursuing a career in TEFL or TESL, here are ten tips that could help make you a better English teacher for your EFL and ESL students.
1)      Advertise yourself well

Even though this comes before teaching it is a crucial part of the English teaching process for both you and your students. You might be the best English teacher in the world but if you don’t advertise your services or present yourself well you won’t get any students and you’ll be depriving them of your teaching talents. Likewise, if you advertise but don’t make it clear what you offer or how much experience you have your students could suffer as a result by getting the wrong impression about what you offer, so it is important to attract students who will be suited to your level of teaching. This is one of the reasons why we’re creating a fair marketplace for English teachers and tutors at TEFLPA where you’ll be able to acquire students based upon your expertise and reviews from students. You can check it out here: http://www.teflpa.com/Tutor-search.aspx
2)      Get to know your students
This point ties in with your suitability as an English teacher for your students. It is important to know the level and needs of your English students, how much English they have studied in the past and what they want to achieve in their English lessons with you and whether or not you can deliver that. Initially, a good way to find this out is by talking to your students and conducting a needs analysis, which allows you to identify the best ways to support your students and help them improve their English for whatever purpose they may need it for going forward.
3)      Put yourself in your students' shoes
It’s useful to understand what it takes to acquire a second language and the struggles and difficulties of learning one. EFL and ESL students who go through the challenging process of learning English often encounter misunderstandings from native speakers along with the occasional embarrassment of using ‘false friends’, so if you get the opportunity to learn a second language yourself it can be a great way to help improve your understanding of what it takes to learn one and consequently improve your work as an English teacher. Many EFL and ESL teachers will live abroad or have the opportunity to do so at some point so in a lot of cases trying to learn a second language is achievable, but if it doesn’t apply to you and you don’t have the opportunity to do this there are still many texts that can help increase your knowledge of language acquisition for the benefit of your students.
4)      Know your subject
This may appear to be an obvious one but particularly as a native English speaker you can easily be drawn into the trap of thinking that because you know English you will know the subject and be able to teach it regardless. Unfortunately this is not the case, because teaching English is a skill that you acquire over time and is something that you will get better at and more knowledgeable about with experience.  Indeed, research has shown that one of the main elements of great teaching is subject knowledge and if this falls below a certain point it can have a significant impact on the student’s learning experience. When you’re teaching English it is therefore important to prepare and make sure you have a good knowledge of your subject. It’s like the old quote from Benjamin Franklin "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”
5)      Maximise student talking time…
When you’re teaching English to EFL and ESL students it’s vital to get the students talking and plan this into your lessons. If you are teaching English at an institute or if you are teaching students privately in both instances the students are paying customers and they will get bored if the lesson only involves you dictating instructions or grammar rules to them. Of course, depending upon the lesson it can be necessary to cover grammar rules, but you need to make sure that once you have drilled the target language your students get to practice it. Generally you want to try and get your students talking at least 60% of the time, and if you find this difficult you can encourage your students to work in groups to answer the questions and facilitate discussion in English or even just get them to read out the instructions. There are a vast number of ways to achieve this, which we'll discuss in a future post.
6)      But make sure students are getting enough LSRW time overall
Students need to listen, speak, read and write in English in order to become proficient, so it is essential that these skills are all covered during your lessons or in student homework. Some days it may be the case that you have a conversation class so it is a good idea to get your students to practice the other skills at home to make sure that they are using all facets of language acquisition in order to develop their English language proficiency.  
7)      Understand the use of different types of language assessments
English language proficiency can be assessed in a number of different ways for listening, speaking, reading and writing, and it’s good to know when to assess your students and how to use the results to help them improve. Both formal and informal assessments can be invaluable in planning lessons that are tailored to your students going forward and they can help you and your students focus on the learning content and subject matter that will improve their English in the best possible way, thus making you a better English teacher.
8)      Make use of authentic scenarios, visuals and study aids
As an English teacher it is your responsibility to teach your students the English that they need, as well as the English that will interest them and actually help them in their daily lives be it in preparation for an interview, passing a university entrance exam or ordering food at a restaurant. To help achieve this you can role play scenarios such as an interview or use authentic resources such as a menu in order to prepare your students for the real life English language challenges that they will face.
9)      Collaborate with your fellow educators
By collaborating with your fellow English teachers and English tutors in the world of EFL and ESL, you’ll be able to seek out suggestions and find some of the resources that help improve your English teaching and enable you to provide your students with the best materials available. Having a professional network or friends in the industry can also help you receive the support that you need in the times that you may be struggling, which applies both to English teaching and life itself. This is particularly relevant for those English teachers living and working abroad who have to adjust to living in a different country away from their family and friends and often find themselves seeking out support and new friendships as a result. It’s well known that if you’re feeling better about yourself it is projected outwards and this will come across in your English teaching leading to your students benefiting from more vibrant, engaging lessons.
10)  Be aware of other cultures
Being aware of other cultures goes a long way when teaching EFL and ESL students, be it in your own country or abroad. People in all walks of life appreciate it when you know about their country and their culture and utilising this as an English teacher will help you build a rapport with your students who will respect you for making the effort to learn about where they come from. Furthermore, it can also help you determine how to conduct yourself in your lessons. Students from some cultures will enjoy elements of humour in the classroom and respond to this, whereas others may prefer a more formal approach. Much like many of the other points mentioned here it is all about identifying and adopting an approach that most suits the needs of your students in order to ensure that you are providing them with the best possible English teaching that you can.

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